The Nature Of Faith Essay

1552 words - 6 pages

In many aspects of our lives, the use of faith as a basis for knowledge can be found. Whether it is faith in the advice of your teacher, faith in a God or faith in a scientific theory, it is present. But what is faith? A definition of faith in a theory of knowledge context is the confident belief or trust in a knowledge claim by a knower, without the knower having conclusive evidence. This is because if a knowledge claim is backed up by evidence, then we would use reason rather than faith as a basis for knowledge . If we define knowledge as ‘justified true belief’, it can be seen that faith, being without justification, can never fulfill this definition, and so cannot be used as a reliable basis for knowledge. However, the question arises, what if a certain knowledge claim lies outside of the realm of reason? What if a knowledge claim cannot be justified by empirical evidence and reasoning alone, such as a religious knowledge claim? It is then that faith allows the knower to decide what is knowledge and what is not, when something cannot be definitively proved through the use of evidence. When assessing faith as a basis for knowledge in the natural sciences, the fact arises that without faith in the research done before us, it is impossible to develop further knowledge on top of it. Yet at the same time, if we have unwavering faith in existing theories, they would never be challenged, and so our progress of knowledge in the natural sciences would come to a standstill. Although I intend to approach this essay in a balanced manner, this essay may be subject to a small degree of bias, due to my own non-religious viewpoint.

Today, faith is the cornerstone of all major religious knowledge claims because there is no definitive way of knowing whether or not a particular religion is true. Therefore, faith is used as a basis for knowledge in religion because it does not call for any justification, merely belief. One strength of faith as a basis for knowledge in religion is that faith allows a knower to justify their religious beliefs, despite necessarily having definitive and empirical proof. Using the definition of knowledge as “justified true belief”, one can see that in order for any religious knowledge claim to accepted, it must be somehow justified. However, here arises a problem for religious knowledge claims. Any claim in the realm of spirituality is inherently said to be beyond the physical world and empirical testing, and so attempting to do so will result in neither the proving nor the disproving of any such claim. However, as faith can exist without such empirical justification, it can used by the knower to justify the claim. But if we were to examine this use of faith as a basis for knowledge from the perspective of the natural sciences, one might scoff at the notion of accepting or rejecting a knowledge claim simply because it is beyond our understanding, when science aims to explain what we do not understand.
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